June 04, 2014
Juvenile Court Process
Before juvenile courts came into existence, juvenile criminals were treated the same as adult criminals. Prior to the juvenile courts, it was concluded that children between the ages of seven and fourteen, and younger, did not have the capacity to commit crimes with criminal intent, therefore they were eliminated from the criminal justice system. For children over the age of fourteen, they were presumed to have the capacity to form criminal intent, however at the time there was no special courts for children so they were treated as adults. These juveniles were held in custody and then tried and sentenced by a court that had the option to order the children to be imprisoned in the same jail as adult criminals. Thus, the effort for the first juvenile court was pressed and it finally came into existence in 1899 in Illinois ("State University.com", 2014)
The goal of the juvenile court system became reformation and it focused on the child as an individual rather than the crime that was committed ("State University.com", 2014). There are four main purposes of the system (1) to provide care, protection, and the mental and physical well-being of a child (2) to substitute their delinquent behavior with programs that provide supervision, care, and rehabilitation (3) to remove the child from his or her home when it is necessary and relevant to his or her welfare or the welfare of the public, and (4) to assure all parties of their legal and constitutional rights (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011, ).
In California there are two separate court systems for juveniles, and they are delinquency and dependency courts. Juvenile delinquency courts are concerned with the minors who are charged with crimes, and the dependency court concentrates on minors who have been either abused, abandoned, or neglected in some way. When a minor is brought into the juvenile court system, it is generally expected that they be categorized into one of the two systems, but not both at the same time. However, there are some instances where a minor can fall into both jurisdictions and in which case they attain a “dual status”. The California juvenile delinquency law is “criminal law” for minors. It is technically part of the civil law system as opposed to the criminal law system because children are not thought of as “committing crimes”. When a California felony or misdemeanor crime has been committed by a minor they go to court just like an adult, but the court is called juvenile delinquency court. A juvenile conviction, also called a “sustained petition”, typically does not follow the minor into adulthood but there are some cases that it does. The delinquency system is intended to rehabilitate the offending minor, compared to the adult system which is focused primarily on punishment. The California Welfare and Institutions Code 202 states: “Minors under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court as a consequence of delinquent conduct shall, in conformity with the interests of public safety and protection, receive care, treatment, and guidance that is consistent with their best interest, that holds them accountable for their behavior, and that is appropriate for their circumstances.” Also under the delinquency system, a judge can find the minor to be a “ward of the court”, which means that the judge can take over primary responsibility to rehabilitate the minor and is responsible for the safety and the accountability of that minor ("Shouse California Law Group", 2014).
Unlike the juvenile delinquency law which deals with minors who have been involved with a crime, the California juvenile dependency law deals with minors who have been abused or neglected. When a child has been victimized within their own home, the courts step in and make the minor a “dependent child” of the court. In a 2006 report almost 500,000 minors are taken away from their